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For Rising 'Feud,'It's All About Steve

Two years ago, Debmar-Mercury and FremantleMedia North America made the decision to replace Family Feud host John O’Hurley with comedian Steve Harvey. The classic game show had dropped to a mid-1 household rating and was verging on cancellation.

That last-ditch effort panned out better than anyone imagined. This fall, Family Feud is moving into some of syndication’s most lucrative time slots across the country, according to Debmar-Mercury.

Prior to Harvey coming on as host, “the show was working at a good enough level to justify staying in production,” says Mort Marcus, copresident of Debmar- Mercury. “When Harvey came on, it started doing so much better that stations started to try it at 3, 4 and 5 p.m.”

“For this fall, we went out into the market and got doubleruns in virtually 100% of markets,” says Ira Bernstein, Debmar- Mercury copresident. “We also will air between 5 and 8 p.m. in 75% to 80% of the country.”

Since Harvey took over, the show has grown into a mid-3 household rating winner. Even in the slow summer months, Family Feud is averaging around a 3.2 live plus same day household rating, according to Nielsen Media Research. By that measure, Feud is doing better than CBS Television Distribution’s talk leader Dr. Phil and is nipping at the heels of CTD’s magazine leader, Entertainment Tonight.

With these upgrades, Family Feud is expected to move into the mid-4 or even 5 ratings, a growth feat that’s rarely seen in television.

Should all go as expected, Family Feud will become the heir apparent to CBS Television Distribution’s Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!— two game shows that continue to perform well in syndication but that appeal to older audiences. In some markets, stations are replacing older-skewing shows with Family Feud, specifically because the show’s younger audience is more advertiser-friendly.

On Tribune-owned CW affiliate KTXL Sacramento, Family Feud is being upgraded from 11 a.m.-noon to a doublerun from 7 to 8 p.m., as well as a third play at 10:30 p.m. where it will lead into the station’s 11 p.m. news.

Over the past year, stations in 30 of the top 50 markets have upgraded the show, including Fox-owned WWOR New York, which moved Feud from a double-run at 2 p.m. to one at 5 p.m. in the country’s top market. Similarly, Fox-owned WPWR Chicago switched the show from a double-run at 4 p.m.—a respectable time slot in its own right—to one at 5 p.m., plus another two runs at 1 p.m. And in Philadelphia, the nation’s No. 4 market, the show moved from NBC-owned WCAU at noon to CBS-owned CW affiliate WPSG at 7 p.m.

While Family Feud can work as a news lead-in, the show’s other advantage is that it plays both as a game show and a comedy, allowing it to fit in well with TV stations’ offnetwork sitcom blocks.

Says Marcus: “While more traditional affiliates now air the show, Feud plays on a lot of Fox, CW and MyNetwork stations that still run sitcoms. This show plays right into those lineups.”

Come Sept. 4, the TV industry will find out if NBCUniversal’s The Steve Harvey Show, a new daytime talk show starring Harvey, has the same magic.

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